I have a small park (22 units + 4 apartments), and I just started adding sub-meters last year. I bought and used one meter for several months on a trial run. Then I bought another and installed with a new home move-in. Beginning in January of this year, I started full scale installations of meters on all lots. I am halfway through the project now, and am so glad I went ahead with it.
The value of sub-metering is phenomenal–and I’m not charging extra for water at this point, I’m just monitoring usage. I can pinpoint leaks and excessive usage with incredible accuracy. I can ask a tenant to flush a toilet while I watch the meter and I can know exactly how much water they use per flush (and, yes, I have a good enough relationship with all my tenants that I can make this kind of cooperative request). Last week we discovered a toilet that was using 4.5 gallons per flush! Prior to that the record was 4 gallons per flush, with a couple pushing 3 or so gallons. I make a deal to finance a new 1.28 gpf toilet for the worst offenders, and so far no one has turned me down.
While I’m at it, I’m replacing all old gate-type shutoff valves with brass and stainless ball valves. I highly recommend this upgrade to everyone who doesn’t already have such hardware. The old gate valves will eventually wear out and fail to hold pressure. I’m also placing and/or rerouting lines near the home in such a way as to make the new meters easily accessible to both myself and tenants. I want them to take an interest in water usage.
Outside of the meter and valve placements, just the act of digging around the old hardware has caused me to find two large leaks. The first was in a bad joint in the supply line to a home before the shutoff valve. A dollar’s worth of new PVC is saving me almost $100 per month now. I’m waiting to see results of repairing the last leak I found, but I expect it to be at least as much savings as the first one.
I was forced into this upgrade. We’ve had leaks off and on through the years. Finding them was always a pain, and they cost me anywhere from $50/month to nearly $200/month until I located them and got them fixed. Last year a main water line had a problem and slammed me for over $1000/month until I had it fixed (at a cost of nearly $6000, including the leak detection company who located the break).
Late last year the water bill started going up again, finally reaching about $500/month in overage. I was getting tired of it. Brought in the leak detection company and they said it was under a home–not a main line. Well, I’d been under every home trying to find the leak before I brought in the pro leak detectors, and now they tell me it’s under a home. The only way to solve the problem, they said, was to sub-meter every home. So, here we are halfway through the project, and I may have found the big leak. From here on out I won’t have to wonder where the water is going. All I have to do is check the meters at least once each month and I’ll know where every tenth of a gallon is being used (or wasted!).
I’m using the DLJ meters from www.watermeters.com. I highly recommend these meters as they are the cheapest on the market that include all hardware needed for the installation. I’m doing all my own work, and the cost is roughly $100 per location, including the meter, a new 12 inch meter box, new ball valve, and miscellaneous fittings. This investment will pay for itself in 5 months if I can shut down the $500 overage. Not many investments have that kind of return.
In the future, if I choose, I can either bill for usage over a certain amount or, at the least, I can charge back when someone has a leak that sucks a hundred bucks or more out of my wallet. I can’t say enough about how positive this is for me. And for the tenants, I can let them know well before a hidden leak eats a hole through their floor. This is win-win as far as I’m concerned, and the relative dollars I’m investing is small–less than one new septic tank and lines would cost after years of damage by too much water running through them (trust me–I know all about this).